On 17 December more than 11 people died and dozens were injured during a suicide attack on the Bethel Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
On 17 December at least 11 people died and dozens were injured during a suicide attack on the Bethel Methodist Church in Quetta, Pakistan. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Two Pakistani Christians were killed and at least three injured in a drive-by shooting on Sunday (15 April) in Essa Nagri, a Christian-majority area in Quetta, capital of the impoverished Balochistan province in the southwest.

The victims, aged 19 and 28, had just left a church service when they were gunned down by two men on a motorcycle. At least three other churchgoers were injured, reported the Catholic news agency UCAN.

The assault, like the attack two weeks ago that killed four Catholics, was claimed by Islamic State.

Quetta has been the scene of multiple violent attacks perpetuated by Islamist militants and separatists in recent years.

‘Blanket licence to fundamentalism’

The ongoing violence directed at religious minorities in Pakistan, including Shia and Ahmadi Muslims as well as Christians, was criticised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in its 2017 report, published today (16 April).

The HRCP said that the while Pakistan had become an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, its government “has failed miserably to protect minority members against attacks and discrimination”.

“Extremist forces bent on creating an exclusive Islamic identity for Pakistan appear to have been given a free hand. A few hundred fanatics held the capital and the garrison cities hostage for 23 days in Faizabad, Islamabad in November this year until their demands were accepted. In ceding to the demands of the violent demonstrators, the state has virtually given blanket licence to fundamentalism and militancy in the name of religion,” it said.

HRCP chairperson Mehdi Hasan told Al Jazeera most human rights violations “are committed by the government institutions … so, you can’t solve the problem, because the government itself is responsible for those violations”. He added that none of the political parties has in their agendas “any plan for the well-being of the ordinary man”.

The HRCP said Christians in Pakistan fall victim to crimes such as murder, bombings, abduction of women, rape, forced conversions, and eviction from home and country. It also noted how “fake cases under blasphemy laws are regularly used to terrorise Christians” – as World Watch Monitor has reported in the cases of Sawan Masih, Patras and Sajid Masih, Nadeem Masih and Asia Bibi. According to Al Jazeera, at least 74 people have been killed in attacks motivated by blasphemy accusations since 1990.

In March Pakistan’s Senate Special Committee on Human Rights recommended that those who falsely accuse someone of blasphemy should receive the same punishment as those convicted of blasphemy. But there has been violent opposition from Islamist groups to any change to the laws.